A durable home that withstands natural hazards like hurricanes saves money, time, the ordeal of making repairs and, potentially, your health.
Pat Skinner, LSU AgCenter disaster preparedness specialist, said hazard resistant homes also help communities and the nation by reducing disaster costs. They help the environment, too, by reducing waste.
“Katrina, Rita and Gustav were wake-up calls for all. It’s a vivid reminder of the importance of making your home stronger, safer and smarter by including hazard-resistant improvements whenever you remodel or restore your home,” she said.
When making any improvements to your home, consider including hurricane- and flood-resistant changes.
Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist, said the most common type of storm damage to homes is roof damage and resulting water damage. When reroofing, investigate the water, wind and hail resistance ratings of the new roof system.
“Select shingles that have a class rating equal to or greater than the basic wind speed specified in the building code,” Reichel said.
Remove the old roof coverings and inspect roof sheathing. Analyze underlayments and fastening methods along with roofing material properties.
“Install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters or trusses to side walls and add 'ring shank' type nails every six inches to better secure the roof decking to the rafters,” she said.
In south Louisiana, consider sealing seams of roof decking with 6-inch-wide roofing tape and upgrading to a tear-resistant, synthetic roofing underlayment material.
Reichel said the most severe damage to non-coastal homes from hurricanes is typically caused by water entry and uneven air pressure loads when windows break or garage doors collapse.
“Hurricane winds can turn unanchored items into missiles – and that can be just the beginning. Most homes destroyed during strong hurricanes had no window protection,” she said. “When wind enters a home through large openings, the pressure can build inside, lift roofs and collapse walls.”
Operable hurricane shutters can protect glass from flying debris while providing an appealing, authentic design element to your home.
“Louvered Bahama shutters (hinged above the window) offer the triple benefit of storm protection, decoration and the energy savings of an awning-like shade while preserving the view. There are also roll-down storm shutters that hide in a cornice until needed and several types of removable shutter and impact screen systems with tracks that can be painted to blend with siding,” she said.
Laminated impact-resistant glass is a good alternative to storm shutters. It offers the added advantages of being storm-ready at all times (such as when no one is home) and home security benefits.
Attractive garage doors, entry doors and windows with high wind pressure ratings are now readily available.
When choosing appliances, make sure they are installed above the potential flood level.
“A front-loading washer on a platform, or over a built-in drawer, has multiple advantages: energy and water conservation, a more convenient height, storage space and protection from low-level flooding,” she said.
A separate wall oven and cooktop are convenient and high above the floor. Install a new water heater and outside air conditioner compressor unit on a sturdy platform or elevated concrete pad above flood levels and secure it from wind with metal strapping.
Reichel said when considering the remodeling of floors, choose materials that can resist damage from flooding, termites and other possible hazards. Consider ceramic or clay tile or brick with waterproof mortar, solid vinyl flooring with chemical-set adhesives, decorative concrete, pressure-treated wood, fiber-cement, and other durable flooring, wall finishes and siding.
“If you live in or near flood hazards, consider creating flood-hardy, drainable, flushable walls, solid wood and plywood structural materials and paperless drywall,” she said. “Leaving a gap in the drywall behind removable moldings will allow space to flush and ventilate the wall cavities without having to ‘gut’ the walls.”
To learn more about protecting your housing investment by making it more durable before the storm, visit LaHouse Resource Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, La. and the websites www.lsuagcenter.com, www.ibhs.org, www.flash.org and www.fema.gov.